CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- James J. Biundo, who died unexpectedly last month, had been one of the original and longest-serving executives to lead a pension fund of one of the telecommunications companies spun off by AT&T Corp. in 1984.
He headed the U S WEST Inc. pension fund, Englewood, for some 14 years. He started in early 1983 -- nearly a year before the company officially was created -- and left last September, when he moved to the sell side of the institutional investment industry.
He joined Forstmann-Leff International Inc., Chicago, becoming co-managing director of its private equity group. At Forstmann-Leff, he teamed up with another former AT&T-spinoff pension executive, Donald W. Phillips, who headed the Ameritech pension fund, Chicago, from its beginning until 1990.
"I'm devastated at the loss of a good friend of 20 years," said Mr. Phillips, president of Forstmann-Leff.
"This was a guy who lived and breathed his work. His strength was analysis."
Mr. Phillips said the firm had been planning to add two to four noted senior professionals before Mr. Biundo died. "We will now accelerate that process."
Mr. Biundo died Feb. 19 of complications of pneumonia after being taken ill by flu, according to his associates. He was 53. He is survived by his wife, Joann, of Castle Rock, and two adult daughters. Following cremation, a memorial service was held at Plum Creek Golf and Country Club, also in Castle Rock.
Mr. Biundo started his career at Ford Motor Co. in 1969. He eventually moved to its trust finance area before he left in 1978 to join Burroughs, a predecessor to Unisys Corp. He worked there until 1982, when he joined Manufacturers Bank of Detroit. In 1983, he joined what would become U S WEST Inc., officially spun off by AT&T on Jan. 1, 1984, along with six other Bell regional operating companies.
James Anderson, who became treasurer of U S WEST in mid-1984, said Mr. Biundo joined the company before its official start to oversee the initial valuation of the pension fund and movement of the assets to the new corporation from AT&T.
"He was hired to work on the split of the pension assets from AT&T," Mr. Anderson said.
The AT&T breakup was the biggest corporate pension fund restructuring. It involved eight corporate pension plan sponsors, the transfer of billions of dollars of pension assets, and the hiring and terminating of dozens of investment management companies.
U S WEST began with a $4 billion defined benefit fund and $450 million 401(k) savings plan. Now, the company has a $13 billion pension fund, $4.6 billion 401(k) and $3 billion in health-care and other employee benefit funds.
Under Mr. Biundo, U S WEST established one of the largest corporate in-house investment management funds. Internally it manages a $5.2 billion domestic equity index fund, including $4 billion for the pension fund, and a $600 million domestic core bond fund, all for the pension fund.
Mr. Anderson said Mr. Biundo spearheaded the pension fund's move to international equities and emerging markets debt. Among other accomplishments, under his leadership the company established a separate money management unit, U S WEST Investment Management Co., Englewood, to oversee pension and other employee benefit assets. Mr. Biundo was president of the unit.
"He was the key person who built this organization," said Mary Beth Gorrell, vice president, U S WEST Investment Management. Ultimately, Mr. Anderson added, Mr. Biundo "left behind a talented staff."
"Jim was friendly, but intense," Mr. Anderson recalled. "He cared about his work and doing an excellent job."
His family suggests contribution may be sent to a charity of choice in his memory or to one of the following organizations: the Humane Society of Denver, 2080 S. Quebec St., Denver, 80231; Plum Creek Junior Golf, 331 Players Club Drive, Castle Rock 80104; or Young Life, P.O. Box 520, Colorado Springs, 80901.